The Lynchburg Hillcats are staring up at a three-game deficit in the Carolina League’s Northern Division heading into play on Saturday, a game below the .500 mark at 9-10 on the season.
It was a quiet week for the ‘Cats, who were once again slowed by rains throughout the Carolina League playing region. Last Saturday’s game in Lynchburg against Potomac was waterlogged before the P’Nats won the series with a 4-3 win on Sunday. After an off day on Monday, the Hillcats travelled to Salem and dropped the series opener, 6-2, before the offense erupted for 13 runs in a 13-7 win on Wednesday night. Rains swooped in again on Thursday to wash out the finale of the series, sending the Hillcats back to Lynchburg, where they lost a 9-6 decision to Myrtle Beach on Friday night.
They will continue their three-game set with the Pelicans from City Stadium with a 6:00 PM ET start on Saturday night. After a Sunday afternoon matchup with the club, the Hillcats will open the month of May with a three-game series against the Winston-Salem Dash before heading to Potomac for a four-game set next weekend.
In other Hillcats chatter:
ESPARZA’S STRONG START CONTINUES
Right-hander Matt Esparza built off of a quality start on April 16 at Myrtle Beach with a season-high nine strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Potomac Nationals on Sunday.
He allowed just one unearned run in the outing while giving up four hits and a walk on 78 pitches. His strikeout total was the most that he had registered at the High-A level, dating back to July 29 of last season. His career best total occurred earlier that season when he struck out 12 against the Great Lakes Loons while a member of the Lake County Captains.
PANNONE K’S NINE IN NO-DECISION
Thomas Pannone, the 23-year-old left-hander out of the College of Soutern Nevada, struck out a season-high nine batters of the 12 that he retired over four innings in a no-decision against the Salem Red Sox on Tuesday. For the fourth straight start, he did not allow an earned run, but his four hits allowed more than doubled the number of hits that he had surrendered in his first three starts and 16 2/3 innings (he allowed none in his season debut, two in his second start, and just one in his third).
In his four starts this season, a span of 20 2/3 innings, Pannone has struck out 31 batters, walked seven, and allowed seven hits. Just one unearned run has scored against the former ninth round pick in 2013.
TOM PLAYING WELL
Ka’ai Tom, the subject of this week’s player interview at Did The Tribe Win Last Night, has put together two weeks of good play at the plate for the Hillcats. His four-game hitting streak ended last Friday, but he added single hits on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday this week. In his 1-for-2 performance against the Pelicans on Friday, he drew three walks to match his previous professional game-high. He also picked off two bases for the second time this season and came in to score twice on the night.
Over the last nine games, Tom is hitting .357 with three walks, three stolen bases, and five runs batted in.
BAUTISTA HEATING UP
Third baseman Claudio Bautista is heating up at the plate for the Hillcats with hits in each of his last three games and four of his last five.
During his better stretch at the plate, the 23-year-old has eight hits in 20 at bats (.400) with a homer and four RBI.
HAGGERTY GETTING ON BASE
After getting a hit in his third straight game and his fifth in the last sixth, infielder Sam Haggerty boosted his batting average and on-base percentage to .298 and .406, respectively.
The third-year man, a 24th round pick by the Indians in 2015 out of New Mexico, has appeared in 16 games for Lynchburg this season and has 17 hits (five doubles, five triples) and has drawn eleven walks in his time at the plate.
LINARES LEAVING ZEROES
Right-handed reliever Leandro Linares has a perfect 0.00 ERA through seven outings to start the season.
He took his first loss of the season his last time out on April 23 after allowing two hits and an unearned run in an inning of work against Potomac. He had previously given up two unearned runs on April 14 against Myrtle Beach. In seven and one-third innings of work on the season, he has allowed seven hits (one home run) and two walks with six strikeouts, but has not issued a walk or a strikeout in his last four appearances.
Juan De La Cruz rejoined the Hillcats on Friday from Lake County. He appeared in four games at the Class-A level, hitting .308 with a double and one run batted in. This is the third season that the 23-year-old has appeared in a Hillcats uniform.
Outfielder Trenton Brooks was reassigned to the Lake County Captains on Friday, less than a week after joining the Hillcats from extended spring training in Arizona. He was removed from the roster on Wednesday to make room for outfielder Connor Marabell, who was activated from the 7-day disabled list. Marabell jumped right back into action with a single in five trips on Wednesday night and had two hits and two RBI in his next game on Friday.
The Hillcats placed catcher Sicnarf Loopstok on the 10-day DL the next day. His five-game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday.